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This App Identifies Geological Features From the Friendly Skies

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Plane trips provide a tantalizing bird’s-eye glimpse of the world’s geographical wonders. For voyagers who want more information on the mountains, rivers, and plains below them, a geology student named Shane Loeffler developed an app called Flyover Country that's now available for free download.

According to Smithsonian, Flyover Country works with a phone’s GPS, and uses maps and information from scientific databases to identify land features miles away. A map tags the features you’re seeing from your window, and you can pull up cached Wikipedia pages to learn about a given peak or body of water.

Loeffler received a National Science Foundation grant to develop the app while studying at the University of Minnesota Duluth. He and a team of geologists at the University of Minnesota are now working on adding more information to the app. Their end goal is for geologists and paleontologists to upload their fieldwork research to create a massive, ever-changing Earth science database.

The app works best in cloudless skies. (The Flyover Country team does hope to tap a meteorologist at some point to write an article about clouds and how they form, so even a cloud-filled view can be a learning opportunity.) For more information, check out Flyover Country’s website, or read Smithsonian’s full interview with Loeffler online.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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History
When Chuck Yeager Tweeted Details About His Historic, Sound Barrier-Breaking Flight

Seventy years ago today—on October 14, 1947—Charles Elwood Yeager became the first person to travel faster than the speed of sound. The Air Force pilot broke the sound barrier in an experimental X-1 rocket plane (nicknamed “Glamorous Glennis”) over a California dry lake at an altitude of 25,000 feet.

In 2015, the nonagenarian posted a few details on Twitter surrounding the anniversary of the achievement, giving amazing insight into the history-making flight.

For even more on the historic ride, check out the video below.

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History
How the Wright Brothers' Plane Compares to the World's Largest Aircraft
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The Wright brothers famously built the world’s first powered, heavier-than-air, controllable aircraft. But while the siblings revolutionized the field of aviation, their early plane looks tiny—and dare we say quaint-looking—when compared to the aerial giants that came after it.

In Tech Insider’s video below, you can see how the Wright brothers’ flyer stacks up against the scale of other aircrafts. You'll notice that size doesn't always guarantee a successful journey. The Hughes H-4 Hercules—the largest flying boat ever made—never made it past the prototype stage, performing only one brief flight in 1947. And the Hindenburg, which was 804 feet long and could fit 80 Olympic swimming pools, famously exploded on May 6, 1937.

Today’s longest commercial airliner is the Boeing 747-8, which measures 251 feet from nose to tail. While slightly shorter (238 feet), the Airbus A380 is certified to hold more people than any other plane in the air—a total of 850 passengers. That record won't last long, though: In a few years, the Stratolaunch carrier—the widest aircraft ever built—will dwarf its contemporaries when it takes to the skies in 2019. Built to launch rockets into orbit, its wingspan is about the size of a football field, even bigger than that of the Hughes H-4 Hercules.

Still, what the Wright brothers’ plane lacked in size, it made up for in ingenuity. Without it, these other giants may never have existed.

[h/t: Tech Insider]

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